We are big fans of Elizabeth Banks. Certainly one of the hardest working actresses in Hollywood, she’s also shown potential over and over again for leading lady status, and her keen comedic instincts should certainly lend itself to helping her become a queen of romantic comedies. Unfortunately, “Walk of Shame” will not be the film that gets her to that level. Banks is game as always and does her best, providing a few genuinely funny moments through sheer force of will alone, but the film crumbles around her.
The premise is simple enough and should lend itself well to comedic elements, but the writing simply falls short. Banks plays Meghan Miles, perky, uptight, ambitious local news anchor longing for a network gig. When she loses the potential job and her fiance in one night, her more outgoing BFFs (Gillian Jacobs and Sarah Wright) drag her out for a night of drinking and bad decisions. This naturally leads to her meeting James Marsden’s cute bartender, going home with him, and then circumstances arising that find her without her phone, wallet or car in a part of Los Angeles she’s never been before, and on a time crunch as the network bigwigs want to give her another chance that very day.
For her sad-sack big night out, her friends even give her a tight, short, bright yellow dress to wear since all she has are pantsuits. This dress will become a major, nay, several major plot points throughout the movie, and some insightful themes about female sexuality are attempted as Meghan is mistaken for a hooker time and again on her titular walk of shame, but it’s never fully explored or allowed to reach a natural or satisfying conclusion.
More problematic is the film’s underlying racial issues. Aside from her white BFFs, white love interest and a couple of white cops, every other person of color she comes across is a degenerate of society in some way, usually in the most negatively stereotypical way possible. Three black guys turn out to be crack dealers and gang members. A Middle Eastern cab driver tries to solicit sexual favors in exchange for cab fare. An Asian message parlor is hinted to be a front for a brothel. Megan eventually is accused of committing a possible hate crime in one of the film’s funnier moments, but it’s an ironic thing to joke about when you imagine what the casting notices for this film must have looked like.
All this could be overlooked if “Walk of Shame” were just a better movie in general or more entertaining in greater quantity than just in sporadic bursts, thanks to Banks’ comedic timing. However, the lack of entertainment value just underscores the same lazy writing that produced such offensive caricatures. Banks has everything it takes to carry a movie with this premise and genre and potential for audience appeal, but will be served better in the future for being choosier with scripts that don’t waste her talents.